Organism-environment mutuality epistemics, and the concept of an ecological niche

Synthese 65 (3):411 - 444 (1985)
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Abstract

The concept of an ecological niche (econiche) has been used in a variety of ways, some of which are incompatible with a relational or functional interpretation of the term. This essay seeks to standardize usage by limiting the concept to functional relations between organisms and their surroundings, and to revise the concept to include epistemic relations. For most organisms, epistemics are a vital aspect of their functional relationships to their surroundings and, hence, a major determinant of their econiche. Rejecting the traditional dualism of organism and environment, an econiche is defined as the reciprocal (dual) of a functionally specified class of organisms (FSTU). From this perspective, an econiche necessarily implies a certain type of organism, and a class of functionally similar organisms implies a special econiche.The econiche concept is also discussed in relation to other ecological terms that reflect the distributional patterns of organisms, such as habitat, and the concept of an empty niche is criticized.

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